I am busy reading through the Gospel of Luke and just got to the part where John the Baptiser is talking to the crowds and this line stood out for me: ‘Produce fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Luke 3:8).
James 1:22 immediately comes to mind as it says: ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’ In fact, he dedicates a whole section of chapter two to the same idea of the combination of faith and deeds.
It is a message the church seems to lose when we start focusing on converts. Getting someone to say a prayer and believe in Jesus and ‘ask Him into your heart’ and then go to church and read your bible and when you’re old enough start throwing money into the plate…
But we were never called to do that. Jesus Himself, at the end of Matthew, issues a command to those who follow Him, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptise them and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.’
DISCIPLES ARE PEOPLE WHO ACTIVELY FOLLOW
We have confused people a little (maybe a lot!) with the notion of free salvation. Because while the gift itself is free, and there is nothing we can do to be worthy of receiving it (that was all Jesus on the cross), there is actually a fairly high requirement connected to this free gift.
The gift of salvation is free but if we are not producing fruit in keeping with repentance, then it starts to call into question our repentance.
Jesus, in Matthew 6, directly after teaching His disciples what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, adds this line: ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ So while the gift of salvation is free it also seems tied to the need for us to be expending forgiveness to everyone who hurts us.
In the parable of the sheep and goats Jesus tells in Matthew 25 there is a strong suggestion that if we aren’t living a life that helps in some way to make a difference to the needs of those considered ‘the least of these’ by society, then we will be in danger of losing that free gift.
LEADERS NEED TO LEAD
When it comes to leaders in the church, too often there has been the mindset of ‘Do what I say, not what I do’. Whereas Jesus was completely the opposite. He showed people how to live. He demonstrated what kingdom love looked like. He washed feet, touched the sick, invited the marginalised to the centre, sacrificed everything and left the call to “Follow Me” hanging in the air behind Him.
Jesus was completely deliberate about this. In Luke 9:23 He turns to those around Him and says, “If anyone would follow Me, He must deny himself, and take up his cross every day, and follow Me.” If we look a little more closely at the Greek word Jesus uses for ‘anyone’, we see that it actually can be translated as ‘anyone’. When we take a closer look at the term Jesus uses that we have translated ‘every day’, we find that it means ‘every day’. These weren’t secret coded messages Jesus was leaving with His disciples. He was clear: to follow Me means that every single day you will pick up your personal cross and walk as if to death [of self interest and personal plan] and follow my steps which lead to the kingdom of God. Every single day.
As a leader of young people we need to firstly be following Jesus and producing fruit in keeping with repentance. We need to be not only listeners or readers of the Word, but doers. And then we need to look at the young people around us and invite them to “Follow me as I follow Christ!”